- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

CATONSVILLE, Md. | Tuition for in-state undergraduates at the state’s 11 public universities will remain frozen for the third consecutive year, but out-of-state students, part-time students and graduate students will pay more.

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents voted 15-1 on Wednesday to hold the line on tuition for the 2008-09 academic year. A 9.4 percent increase in state funding for higher education made the tuition freeze possible, Chancellor William E. Kirwan said.

“We feel this is an extraordinary indication of the support we are enjoying from the governor and the General Assembly,” Mr. Kirwan said.

He noted that students who began their freshman year in fall 2005 and will graduate in 2009 will pay the same for tuition all four years and said he was unaware of any other state that could make that claim.

From 2002 through 2006, tuition increased more than 40 percent at some schools, prompting student protests and testimony before lawmakers in Annapolis. Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat elected in 2006, pledged to hold the line on tuition.

“This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart,” he said. “I believe that we should be striving every day to make college education more affordable for more people. I also have a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old.”

The state’s public universities have fallen from the sixth-most expensive in the nation in 2004 to the 16th-most expensive this year, according to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The tuition freeze comes at a cost, of course: Lawmakers pushed through $1.4 billion in tax increases during a special session last fall, including an increase in the corporate income tax rate from 7 percent to 8.25 percent. Half the new revenue from that tax increase - about $54 million - will go into an investment fund for higher education in the upcoming fiscal year.

Delegate Gail Bates, Howard Republican, said it was unfair to use taxpayer dollars to freeze tuition without asking universities to do some belt tightening.

“It’s easy to say we’re going to hold the line on tuition when you don’t hold the line on the cost to operate the institutions,” she said.

Robert L. Mitchell, appointed to the board by Mr. O’Malley’s Republican predecessor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was the only board member to vote against the tuition freeze. He said afterward that he appreciated what the governor had done but he felt the university needed more money.

Fees for room and board, meals and parking will increase, as those services are not funded by the state. Such fees usually increase by 3.5 to 4 percent, at pace with the rate of inflation.

Of the 137,000 students in the university system, almost 80,000 are in-state undergraduates. Tuition for out-of-state undergrads will range from no increase at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County - the site of Wednesday’s vote - to 5.2 percent at the University of Maryland University College.

Average tuition for in-state undergrads stands at $5,081 per year. At the university system’s flagship campus in College Park, undergrads will continue to pay $6,566 annually, while out-of-state students will pay $21,637, a 4 percent increase. To live in a dorm, students must pay an additional $5,402, up 2.2 percent from the previous year.

The best bargain in the university system is Coppin State University in Baltimore, with undergraduate tuition of $3,527.

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